I bought a high definition TV in 2003 and it has worked about the same ever since I got it. However the rest of the world has moved on. HDMI cables are now the standard way to connect cable boxes and DVD players to TVs, but mine had an earlier version called DVI. I was able to use cables with HDMI at one end for the DVD player and a DVI connector at the other end for the TV, but DVI doesn’t carry sound, so I had to carry the audio signal separately. Fortunately the TV had a ton of input jacks on the back. While I don’t think it matters much, the TV was only capable of a 1080i picture, but 1080p is now common, including from my Blu-ray player. Lately, the cost of Ultra High Definition TV’s has come down (way below what I got my TV for) and I started thinking about upgrading. In the end I decided that the technology was still developing and I should wait since my old TV was working fine. Until Sunday night.
I’m not sure what caused it, but I was watching TV and all of the sudden the picture started looking like a 3-D movie, with the red and blue colors shifted away from the main image. I tried the Flash Focus feature which is supposed to realign the red, blue, and green CRT tubes that produce the image, but it was not effective. I looked up the problem on the internet and found some possible help. I even removed the front cover and made adjustments to some screws that only technicians are supposed to touch. But it made no difference and I think the bottom line is that I couldn’t repair the TV. Looks like it is time for a new TV.
My old TV has a 51-inch screen. I figured I would like something a little bigger, but a lot bigger gets much more expensive. So 55 inches seemed like a good size to where I could find a $500 lower end UHD TV. I looked online at Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Frys, and Amazon. Sony (who made my old TV) makes mostly higher end options, but Samsung and LG provide a lot of price points for consumers. One nice feature is HDR, which darkens the backlighting in parts of the screen to achieve blacker blacks. It isn’t controlling every pixel, but regions of the screen. People on Amazon were critical of the picture quality of the Samsung and LG, but it’s hard to know if those are just complainers or not. I found a great website that seems to test a large number of TV’s with a large array of measurements of TV picture and sound quality called Rtings TV Reviews that compared some of the TV’s I was looking at. One of the things they do is take measurements at different angles since the picture often loses quality as you sit further and further from directly in front. A lot of the budget models I was looking at are only good within 10 degrees of directly in front. Some are even worse than that to the point where they said if you sit in front of one TV that the right and left edges of the TV are at enough of an angle that picture quality is noticeably worse than in the middle. My projection TV wasn’t that great at an angle either, and since it is usually just me watching TV from the sweet spot, maybe that wasn’t a big deal. Then they come up with an average score. The one with the very narrow viewing angle was a Sharp and it got a score of 6.7. A Samsung I was considering had a score of 7.3, but an Amazon reviewer pointed out that Samsung serves ads over its smart TV apps with no option to turn them off. A Vizio had a score of 7.2. I couldn’t find my exact LG model, but one with a similar model number got a 6.7. Most TV’s have pixels that consist of individual red, blue, and green lights that shine together to create one pixel that can appear to be any color. LG adds a fourth white light, but then says that pixel is actually 2 pixels. Some people say LG isn’t giving you as many pixels as they say (or something like that; I’m not sure I understand the white subpixel). Other people complained about back bleed on the TV. Another TV which had gotten a good review elsewhere was a Hisense 55H8C. Hisense is a Chinese company that bought Sharp a few years ago. They have a sort of HDR, but it isn’t quite as good as some other TV’s. However they earned a 7.4 from Rtings. Was a 7.4 that different than a 7.2? I worked my way up the ladder of Samsung models and found that when they got up to a 7.4, it was for a $850 TV.
There are other features. One annoying feature is that there are different levels of HDMI port. Some ports can only support 1080p. Others can support full UHD, but maybe not at 120 frames per second and instead maybe 30 Hz. Some TV’s will only have one UHD port, but will say they have 4 HDMI ports and you have to dig to find out how many high speed ports they have. The Hisense I was looking at had 2 high speed ports and 2 slower ones, which should be fine, but they max out at 60 Hz, which maybe isn’t that bad. It is doubtful I would have two different 60 Hz sources anyway and the most likely UHD source is from wifi which doesn’t use a HDMI port. I will probably eventually want to get a UHD Blu-ray player, though there aren’t many UHD Blu-rays out there (usually not ones I would want either), and they are more expensive than regular Blu-rays, rarely going on sale. I may also need a new audio system at some point. The TV has speakers of course, but it is hard for flat panel TV speakers to be that good and I’m not sure that my audio receiver can deal with the latest types of protected digital audio.
So I think the $500 Hisense is a good value and I went last night to pick it up at Best Buy. It barely fit in my car and only if I laid it flat in the trunk with the back seats down. However it is light enough that I was able to carry it into the house by myself. I had quite a tangle of cables with the old TV, some of the wires no longer in use from Dish or AT&T installations that have been removed. Plus since I couldn’t use HDMI, I had separate audio cables for everything. I even had a VCR still hooked up, which I decided I can get rid of now. It turns out I had no HDMI cables at all, so I had to make a trip to Walmart to get a couple of cables (HDMI cable are so much cheaper online and most HDMI cables aren’t rated for full UHD video), but it really reduced the tangle of cables. I rolled the old TV into the spare bedroom to get it out of the way (I definitely can’t pick it up by myself, so Eric said he would help me get it out to the street). There are definitely better TV’s and I am comparing it to a 13 year old rear projection TV, but the picture looks fantastic. I don’t have any UHD content to try out (though a short ad is built into the TV firmware and it looked really good) but the TV does try to upscale 1080p content. Eric says I can’t see the difference from 10 feet anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Plus it is a smart TV so it has Netflix, Vudu, and other apps that allow streaming over the internet (Netflix serves up some UHD content) and it connects to my wifi network which my old TV never thought about.